Over the past few weeks, Covid is back in the news. TV channels, news portals and the morning papers have once again started talking about “variants” of the “deadly” Omicron, quite forgetting that this poor variant was a gentle being compared to the Delta version that the country suffered through the summer of 2021.
There are reports of how the XBB.1.5, which is fueling a surge in the US, and the BF.7, which is responsible for China’s current Covid crisis, have been found in India — subtly suggesting a similar surge could happen in the country.
This, despite the fact that these variants were detected here months ago and virologists have been keeping a close eye on them.
So why does the media persist with its reports despite expert after expert stressing the unlikelihood of any surge in India because, for one, our vaccines were more efficacious, two, we seem to have achieved a modicum of herd immunity, and three, because there is no sign of hospitalisations because of Covid-19?
Well, it’s because “official” bodies and sources, starting with those at the Centre, suddenly began talking about Covid in the middle of December. Meetings were held, guidelines were issued, and states were asked to test, monitor and generally tighten their belts.
And the media was left with little option but to report all these rapid developments, even though health reporters were left puzzled, as were the epidemiologists and virologists they were in touch with, as to what the fuss was all about.
Many news outlets, of course, prefaced much of their reporting with the exhortations of experts that there was no need to panic. But, as one health reporter wryly put it, he would certainly panic if someone kept telling him, literally every day, not to panic!
Asked about the sudden spike in talk about Covid, a top virologist South First spoke to said — with an exasperated shake of the head — that the reason for it lay not in any virus or its variant, but “elsewhere”.
We’re still wondering what that meant.